Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

lundi, avril 30, 2007

Voodoo Python Temple (Ouidah, Benin - April 27, 2007)

A single doorway led into the small, circular hut inside the walled compound of the python temple in Ouidah, Benin.

"Are you ready to enter?" the temple guide asked as he pulled a 3-foot long python off of my neck. In turn, the necks of Patrick, Joyce (another roaming PC Guinea volunteer who we happened across while walking the "Path of Slaves" in the morning) and I had been draped by a python from the temple. The guide had finished explaining how the python is an important aspect of voodoo in Ouidah.

Originally known as vodun, the voodoo religion is practiced by at least 50% of people in Benin. The historic center of voodoo is Ouidah, but voodoo was not formally recognized as a religion by the government of Benin until 1996.

The walls of the hut are made of concrete and the center contains a recessed area resembling the shape of a keyhole. Several steps lead down from the floor level to the base of this key-shaped area, which is used by the voodoo priest. A sequence of paintings depicting the arrival of voodoo and the python relationship cover the walls of the hut. However, it was the floor that grabbed my attention and provided a somewhat creepy feeling.

Snakes. Lots of snakes. Pythons were all over this temple. Some were by themselves but the majority laid together piled in a mass of long, muscular bodies with snake heads popping out everywhere. One appeared to have recently finished a meal and was bulging in its midsection as it digested.

"How many pythons are there?" the guide was asked.

"Thousands. Thousands," came the reply that I have top believe is inflated. "However, they are not all here. At night we leave the door to the temple open and the pythons are free to leave and go hunt where ever they wish. If a person finds a python in the city, they will return it to the temple."